Skipping Regular New-Year Blog Posts

I went over to Goodreads to capture my 2018 book summary, and I was in the process of cropping it up, when I realized I didn’t want to do Leng’s Book Awards this year. I had half a mind to retire the entire thing, but I figure I take a less drastic action and just skip it for now. I don’t exactly know why I don’t feel like doing it. Maybe because I’m still so hung up on the last series I read that I feel like most of the awards might just go to Lockwood and co. I also looked at the awards I’ve been giving out, and I just feel very ‘meh’ about them. Maybe in the future if I decide to revive this annual thing, I will come up with better fake awards.

In general, I’ve also been rethinking book blogging and reviews lately. I think when I started embarking on my own writing project, my view on books reviews changed. I used to be very open about my opinions on books, especially the ones that didn’t live up to my expectations (my old LJ used to be filled with book rants), but now I just don’t feel comfortable doing that anymore. It doesn’t feel like very good writer’s etiquette to talk about another book that way, and now that I’m undergoing the stress and difficulties of writing my own novel, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the efforts other authors put in their own works, even if I didn’t like them as a reader. I don’t know if any of you noticed, but I’ve gone back to my old posts and significantly pared down previous reviews. I don’t give star ratings anymore, and I try to keep my recent reviews short and sweet.

There’s also something weird about this upcoming new year. In that I don’t feel like it’s a new year. I feel like it’s just a continuation, and I don’t feel compelled to do anything drastic. 2018 was a tepidly good year for me, in that good things happened and some challenging things happened, but none of the highs are that high and none of the lows are that low. Which, I mean overall, is still a good thing, but it doesn’t prompt me to make resolutions or anything. When I’m feeling a bit more upbeat, I might make another post about what to expect from this blog in 2019.

Okie dokie, guess I’ll leave it at that. Happy New Year, everyone!

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November 2018 Books

Okay, first up! The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli. I picked up this book not knowing much about it, other than that someone I follow on Goodreads liked it, so I decided to give it a try.

Asha is a dragon slayer. She kills the creatures as revenge for the havoc and destruction they caused her kingdom many years ago. With her wedding to the ruthless commander coming in a week, her father makes her a deal: if Asha kills Kozu, the oldest dragon, then they can call off the wedding. However, when Asha sets out to kill Kozu, she discovers secrets about the dragons, as well as her kingdom, that challenge everything she believes in.

I really enjoyed this book. Especially after the midpoint, when a massive plot twist was revealed, things really fall into place, and it sets you in the right frame of mind to really appreciate everything that came before. 

This month, I finished off the Lockwood and Co. series by Jonathan Stroud. Let me tell you, ooh boy, it was a wild ride, and this series is definitely in my top favourites now.

I just enjoyed these books sooo much, that they knocked me out of my reading slump after I finished The Last Namsara. There’s just something about Lucy Carlyle’s narration that pulls you in and doesn’t let go. The slow revelation of the bigger mysteries of their world slowly unfold while the back-to-back action-packed individual missions make sure that things don’t get bogged down for too long.

And just like in all books I love, what really grabs me in this series is the characters and their dynamics with each other. I love all the friendships they form, the challenges they face in their relationships, and how they overcome that. The protagonists are still teenagers, and they act very much like so, without me feeling like they’re making terrible decisions. (I kid you not, sometimes I read books in which protagonists clearly make horrible decisions and the story justifies it as them being teens, and it just… doesn’t justify it enough for me).

I especially fell in love with Lucy Carlyle. Oh my dear, salty girl. It’s strange because Lucy actually fulfils the character archetype that I don’t usually like. She’s abrasive, insecure, jealous, looks down on other girls. But I really commend Stroud for writing her flaws in a very understandable way. I wasn’t repulsed by her, like I usually am with characters who have the same personality; instead, I felt for her, and I saw my younger 14-year-old self in her. And I rooted for her and wished she’d grow and overcome her insecurities. And she did. That’s the lovely part of it. She did.

I also really love the way the romance is handled here. There’s not much of it. Perfect, just the way I like it. Hehe.

October 2018 Books

Whoa, I was on a roll again last month! Let’s get to it

6609744Kat Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis

This book has been on my TBR list for a few years now, and it’s satisfying to finally get around to it.

Kat comes from a family with magic, which is lucky for her because her oldest sister is about to get married to a man rumoured to have murdered his previous wife.

I really love how packed this book is with action. It’s short, but so many things happen. I love Kat’s relationship with her sisters, how they don’t always get along, but deep down they have each others’ best interest at heart. I really enjoyed this book, and look forward to reading the rest of the series.

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Self-Editing for Fiction Writersby Renni Browne and Dave King

This is a gem of a book! Remember when I was worrying about telling vs showing in another blog post? Well, this book answers that question and so much more! I’m glad I finished it before I started editing my story. I highly recommend this book!

 

 

13149420Quicksilver by R.J Anderson

I read the prequel to this book last year at around the same time, and I enjoyed it a lot.

In this book, we follow Tori, the “perfect” girl from the prequel, as she tries to start anew in a different city. But she quickly finds out that her past is catching up to her, and to escape it, she must be willing to do some pretty drastic things.

I actually liked this book more than I liked Ultraviolet, only because the scope was bigger. Ultraviolet was constrained to the hospital that Alison stayed in for most of the book. Anyway, I loved Tori’s character, especially how she studied really hard to be perfect. The way Alison described her before, she seemed too good to be true. I enjoyed seeing some of the events of Ultraviolet in her perspective as well. Oh, and I really enjoyed the way her friendship with Milo unfolded. And I loved that bittersweet ending. Basically I loved the book, lol.

14059024The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Another series that I’m so glad I got into! In this book, Lucy, Lockwood and George try to solve a case that might related to the ghost of the skull that George experiments on. Meanwhile, the trio try to preserve the company’s reputation, and more importantly, the trust between each of them.

I am really, really loving this series! I love Lucy, her personality, the way she narrates the story. I love her friendship with both Lockwood and George. The only flaw I see right now is that she has the whole “not-like-other-girls” attitude going on, so I’m hoping to see some character arc to address that eventually.

The Lockwood books are fast-paced and well-written, with the tension kept up at all times. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. And yeah, I hope nobody dies, haha.

11545776 Write the Fight Right by Alan Baxter

There’s quite a bit of fighting in my book, so I figured I might as well learn how to write those parts well. The advice given in this book is to focus on the character’s perspective and their feelings, because that’s more important than giving the details or names of all the specific techniques the character uses. Things like those just bog down the story. It’s a short book with lots of helpful suggestions, so if you have a couple of hours, I think you won’t lose anything by picking it up and giving it a go.

 

Up on BetaBooks!

Guys! Guess what? The first quarter of my story, the entire first act, is up on BetaBooks, and I’m now looking for readers to start beta-ing. Ah, I’m so nervous, but here goes.

What’s it about?

Sano dreams to explore the world and to be a hero, which is a little difficult considering nobody’s supposed to know he exists. When his mother leaves him for a few days, a careless display of magic catapults Sano out of his reclusion, and he finds himself pursued by the king’s warriors. Thrust into the world he knows next to nothing about, aided only by a superstitious girl who wants stronger magic, he must find a way to reunite with his mother.

But it’s a dangerous time to be a fugitive in the Kingdom of Dayung. Friction among the regions is getting palpable. A shameful, shadowy past is creeping back to haunt its people. The greedy, ruthless king is desperate to eliminate any threats to his power. And to top it all, a mysterious wind is plaguing the kingdom, turning all wrongdoers into wood.

As Sano navigates the world for the first time, he must make choices that challenge his dreams and force him to confront what it truly means to be a part of the world.

What’s it called?

I don’t know! T__T I’m hoping some of my beta readers will help me brainstorm a title.

But is there anything interesting in it?

Okay, themes that it explores:

  • family, friendship, community
  • languages
  • erasure of history
  • importance of stories

Um, what else? Oh, the protagonists fall under the red oni, blue oni trope, which personally, I quite like.

Oh! It has a magic system based on programming. (‘Cuz that’s the only magic I know, haha)

And the world is inspired by precolonial Philippines! I really hate to make it seem like I want cookie points for that, but on the other hand, if you’re interested in seeing a different culture in a fantasy setting, well, here’s a story for ya. Also, I spent a lot of time doing research so if you can provide guidance on that regard, I will honour you forever.

Are there things you should be wary of?

This story is meant to be MG-level. Violence is kept to a minimum; no gory details. No romance maybe if you squint.There’s polytheism and animism, so a warning if that’s not something you’re comfortable seeing.

Where can you see my novel?

Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll send you a link! You’ll have to sign up to BetaBooks, I believe, but it’s completely free if you’re just reading. I have a monthly subscription that allows me up to 20 beta readers. I’ve outlined some guidelines for the critique, and hopefully it’s self-explanatory.

September 2018 Reads

I didn’t do very well this month! I thought I was going to be on a roll, considering the momentum I built up in August, but events from real life interfered quite a bit.

I only finished one book this month.

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It’s no secret that Megan Whalen Turner is one of my favourite authors, so it’s actually surprising that it took me so long to read this book. Instead of Three Wishes is an anthology of short stories. Other than the Queen’s Thief series, this is the only other publication that MWT has. I’m not used to reading something from her that isn’t about Queen’s Thief, so I wondered how well I would get into it.

I shouldn’t have worried at all! Megan Whalen Turner is such an impressive writer that she can write about anything and still grab my attention! The thing about her writing is that it has such a compelling voice; it really pulls you in. She never gets in the way of her own story.

Each story in this anthology has a different flavour, a different atmosphere. The Baker King is probably the most similar to her Queen’s Thief series. I found the story about the selkie really haunting for some reason, as well as the one about the ghosts who were reading (didn’t expect that certain ending from MWT). Oh, and I really like The Nightmare as well. It’s about a bully named Kevin who becomes cursed with nightmares where he sees the events of his day from the perspective of people he interacted with, and he feels their emotions towards him. It’s a really different kind of story from the ones that are popular today, where most of the time protagonists achieve their character arcs by finally deciding they don’t care about what people think (alternatively, stories like Nosedive from Black Mirror show negative character arcs by demonstrating what happens when you continue to care about what people think). I think it’s refreshing to find a story that sends a message that sometimes taking into account other people’s opinions of you can make you a better person.

Anyway, if there’s anything I learned from reading this book, it’s that I will read whatever Megan Whalen Turner writes.

August 2018 Books

And it’s time for my monthly reading recap! I’m proud to say I actually did well this August. At the beginning of the month, I was 4 books behind my Goodreads Reading challenge, and now I’m one book ahead. To be fair, two of these “books” were comic volumes, but hey, I needed the boost.

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To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

Aaand, starting us off, we have a sci-fi classic! To Say Nothing of the Dog is about a bunch of historians who time-travel, and find themselves pulling forward into the future an member of an extinct species: a cat! And before this destroys the time-space continuum, Ned Henry and Verity Kindle must return the  cat and fix the incongruities they’ve introduced.

This was a lot of fun! Although I found the beginning quite tedious and a little difficult to get into, once you pass the quarter mark, it gets very entertaining. And the end offers a really pleasant twist that you might not have seen coming. (Not the butler though; I saw the butler thing coming, hehe.)

13190596The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

A year ago, I read the first book in Courtney Milan’s “Brothers Sinister” series, “The Duchess War,” and ended up thoroughly enjoying it even though it was one of the rare times I ventured out of my SFF comfort zone. Earlier this year, I read the follow-up novella, and this time, I was up for a short, fun fluffy romance after the roller-coaster ride I got with To Say Nothing of the Dog. And I was already confident that Courtney Milan’s style and characterization would give me what I was looking for, so I went ahead and read the prequel novella. It did not disappoint! I think I will do something really unusual and read this entire romance series.

Mythspace Vol. 1 and 2 by Paolo Chikiamco

Mythspace is a 3-volume graphic novel about a young man who discovers that the folklore his grandmother used to tell him are actually true! But not in the way he thought it would be. This graphic novel reimagines Filipino folklore in an SFF setting, showcasing mythological creatures from the manananggal, to the capre, and laho. I really enjoyed reading these two volumes, and I was a little sad to find that the volumes aren’t being sold anymore at Kobo.

8511599Eskrima: Filipino Martial Art by Krishna Godhania

I started reading this a few months back, because I needed an introduction to Filipino combat system as part of the research for my story. At first, I was a little skeptical of this book, and it seemed like it made assumptions about its audience (specifically, that you’ll be male, as there was a scene the author asks you to envision, where you might need to use self-defence when you’re out at night with a member of the opposite gender and you guys somehow come across sketchy people who have bad intentions towards your date — needless to say the image that popped in my head was probably not the one the author intended).

But apart from the introduction, I found his explanation of Filipino martial-arts system incredibly detailed and helpful. I don’t think it would substitute the knowledge you gain by actually signing up for classes (which I’m hoping I get to do soon), but there is enough, I believe, to get a writer on a pretty good path to describing how FMA works in fighting scenes. There are also dozens of helpful images and diagrams as well.

33230889The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

So, so, so. I was working on finishing off my 3rd draft this month, but I found myself lacking the creativity to keep up the tension in my scenes. So I decided I should probably read some thrillers or mysteries to figure out how to keep good tension.

The Good Daughter is the first mystery/thriller book I’ve ever read, and it really gives you what you’re looking for. As soon as I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. I read it in a day. I even stayed up until 2 in the morning reading it (that hasn’t happened since I was reading Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom).

The Tricky Thing About “Show, Don’t Tell”

“Show, Don’t Tell” is one of those really popular writing advice that I keep struggling with. Maybe I just haven’t read enough guides on how to do it well, but it’s probably safe to say that at this point, I’m not a fan of this advice. My biggest issue with it is that people who give this advice rarely illustrate how much to show.

Take these examples:

Level 1: Jane Doe was agoraphobic.

Level 2: Jane Doe was afraid of stepping out of her door. Ever since she and her mother were attacked under gunpoint and their wallets stolen five years ago, Jane had found the outside world unbearable.

Level 3: Jane’s sister told her that today there would be a solar eclipse. Jane didn’t even need to go very far to see it. Her sister had given her a pair of glasses to peer through, and all she had to do was step out on her balcony. And yet, even though that sounded so simple, Jane could not bring herself to do it. Just seeing the sidewalk, even if it was different from the one she and her mother had taken that awful night, made her heart hammer in her chest and her hand clammy with sweat. No, she much preferred the view and the atmosphere inside. She was not going out.

Okay, so clearly Level 1 is telling. We’re just dumping the information straight out. Level 3 is clearly showing. We’re describing a situation and Jane’s responses to it as it is happening.

But what about Level 2?

This is the part I find so tricky. Level 2 is “telling” when compared to Level 3, but it can be considered “showing” when compared to Level 1. So if I write something that is similar to Level 2, is that actually showing or telling? And perhaps showing and telling isn’t really determined by the writer, but by the reader, you know? If I’m reading and I expect Jane’s agoraphobia to be “shown” like Level 3, then Level 2 will feel a little disappointing. On the other hand, if I’m impatient and I don’t find Jane’s agoraphobia all that important, Level 3 might seem excessive, when there’s Level 2 that will perfectly do.

I don’t have a good way of ending this post. I’m just saying… I find “Show, Don’t Tell” a rather stiff advice. Not to mention, sometimes you don’t want to “show,” right? Sometimes all you want to say is “roughly squared wooden beams, wooden carriages, and cannon,” instead of describing the actual wooden grains of the cannon.

 

I’m Still In One Piece

So, so, so. This is totally unrelated to writing or reading or any of the things I usually post.

I’ve been driving to work for about a week now. I’m still very much a beginner — I only received my G2 license at the end of May, after all, and I did pretty limited driving since then. At the beginning of this month, I was able to secure a parking space at a train station on a line that has a stop 5 minutes away from work. Very convenient. The drive from my home to this station is about 30-40 minutes, but it’s in one straight line.

You know, I’ve always been one of those pedestrians who shake their head at drivers who do stupid things, and I also live in an area with an inflated insurance rate because people here are supposedly “bad drivers,” so I’ve always sworn I was going to be a Good Driver!

Well, easier said than done, especially when you’re a beginner, apparently. Since I started driving last week, I’ve had about… erm, three reckless driving experience so far, and honestly, I come home with my knees shaking, just being thankful I’m alive. It’s strange how all these instances happen on my way back home. My drive to work has thankfully been pretty uneventful (and believe me, I’d rather keep it that way). I don’t know what it is about the afternoon rush hour — is it that people are just more impatient to go home than get to work? Or is it that my northbound route just a little more disorganized?

Just to give some examples…

My northbound route is a little different than the southbound, because on the street that I would usually take, there’s a section under construction that squeezes the northbound cars into one lane. The traffic there during rush hour is pretty bad, so I take a parallel road home. Last week when I first decided to do this, I had to make a left. I didn’t realize that the left lane had its own set of lights, and I was already in the middle of the road. Once the north-south lights turned red, I knew the east-west lights would turn green before the left-turning cars would be given a go, so in the split-second in between, I zoomed out of the intersection. Yup, I can already imagine the heads shaking.

Another incident, a less stupid one, but still quite dangerous: again on another intersection. I was trying to make a right, but a car from the lane that had the right of way approached really quickly, honked obnoxiously at me, and zoomed right past. Okay, I know this was my fault (I mean, all of these silly mistakes are my fault for being not aware), but I was *this* close to hitting him. I had to slam on my brakes and my bags fell off the seat. Couldn’t he have slowed down and given me the space? I was already on the lane anyway. Again, I admit it was my fault, but I feel like sometimes people care less about actually driving safely than exerting their right to be on that spot when they want.

Not that I can brag about safe driving… so today, let me tell you about this side street I usually turn right into to get home. It has four lanes, two for the cars going right, and two for the cars going left. For the past week, the two lanes for the eastbound were blocked by some construction, so they turned one of the westbound lanes into the eastbound lane. That meant I had to go further than usual to make my turn. Today, they moved the construction, so it was the 2 middle lanes that were closed off! I did NOT notice until I was about to turn into the usual lane and found that it was closed. I couldn’t go back since there was a car behind me, so I used the westbound lane to go east. Ughh! Fortunatley there weren’t any cars in it, but as I was driving down, some cars started to appear. I must have confused the crap out of them, and I could practically feel the shame oozing from me in spades. I just accelerated so that I could move back to the correct lane past the construction, and I wouldn’t block them. But man, I must have appeared exactly like the kind of reckless driver I shake my head at.

Well, I came home, absolutely astounded that after a week of driving, my car and I are still in one piece.

 

July 2018 Books

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson

The Secrets of Solace is the 2nd book in the World of Solace Series. I read the first, Mark of the Dragonfly several years ago and I remember liking it very much. This book is a standalone like the first, dealing with an entirely different cast set in a different part of the world. In this book, we follow Lina, a young archivist, who finds a mysterious airship stuck in the tunnels of her home. She befriends a boy named Ozben who happens to be on the run from assassins.

I thought that this book had the same imaginative story and characters that the first book did, but it didn’t have the same sense of adventure. Perhaps because Lina and Ozben spend most of their time in the strongholds of the mountain where the archivists live. The plot enfolds only in that place until the climax. What I really liked about this book though is how Lina and Ozben’s character arcs intertwined.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

I feel like you would enjoy this book more if you’re prepared for what it really is. The summary provided tells of Isobel, a talented painter, who gets whisked away by the Autumn Fae Prince, Rook, after she accidentally paints sorrow in his eyes. He loses face at court and intends to have her punished to bring him back to his people’s good graces.

I read Goodreads reviews of this book before diving into it, so I know that it’s not in fact a book about court intrigue, but a book spent on travelling together through the woods. And that was what it really was. It’s just a pretty straightforward story of two people who journey through the forest rife with danger and end up falling in love (though they fall in love pretty quickly, and the 2nd half is all about how they survive the dangers). I think people who like simple, journey-based stories like this would enjoy this book. I personally enjoyed the self-indulgent feel it had. Sometimes you just need a book about two people in the woods falling in love, you know what I mean?

My only frustration really was that the inciting event of Isobel painting sorrow in Rook’s eyes and the consequence of that was never really explored. It just felt like the inciting event was not integrated into the actual story, except to get the hero and heroine to travel together.